As opposed to Berendo Middle School where I was pretty much left to “sink or swim,” Milken Community High School invested serious time, money, and attention to my professional development.
In 1998 they paid a consultant to fly from New York to LA to train myself and several other Milken teachers over two full workdays on “webquests.” I got intense training on Bernie Dodge’s project-based curriculum, Grant Wiggins and his “essential questions,” and then Milken paid me a $2,500 stipend that next year to develop and teach a webquest. They also paid other teachers to do this, and we met periodically at night to give each other support and get feedback — this is what I call “professionalism,” and neither before nor after have I ever seen that level of support and quality control from administration in public school.
I worked long and hard on this webquest, and the lessons I learned in developing and teaching this project I never forgot. It was a crucial step in my development as a teacher. So many years later, I am still proud of this unit – teaching Islam (and Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, among other topics) to Jewish middle school students in Los Angeles two full years before the events of September 11th 2001 brought these topics to America’s full attention.